Lamar City Council Discusses Owner Accountability for Vacant Buildings


Property for Demolition, 2017



Lamar City Council members discussed an ordinance, suggested by City Administrator, Steve Kil, that can help officials identify the owners of vacant buildings and the level of the structure’s current code compliance. A 2020 report generated by the city indicated there are over 100 residential and commercial properties in Lamar that are in very bad shape. Kil and the council discussed an ordinance during the council’s January 25th meeting, to set up a program to identify and register vacant residential and commercial buildings to determine any needed repairs. Part of the process, according to Lamar Mayor, Kirk Crespin, is asking the owners if they have any specific plans for the property in the near or far future. Would it be eventually upgraded, torn down, sold, left alone…etc? A comprehensive listing can help owners keep their properties within code regulations and help speed the rehabilitation of the vacant buildings. Councilperson, Anne Marie Crampton recommended prioritizing commercial properties first rather than residential properties or vacated lots.

The council also discussed allowing golf carts, upgraded with safety equipment, to be allowed on certain streets within the City of Lamar. Administrator Kil said his office continues to receive these requests, but certain safeguards and registration would have to be met before any permission is granted. An ordinance would have to be passed requiring proof of insurance and a registration sticker would have to be displayed on the cart, as well as turn signals and driving and brake lights. The carts would not be allowed on major and minor arterial roads and collector streets such as Memorial Drive and the overall cart operation would fall under the Lamar Police Department guidelines and regulations. Lamar Police Chief, Kyle Miller, said his department was asked to look at the request about two years ago. Miller said a conversion to make a cart road-worthy would not be cheap and any operator on the street would have to be licensed and insured. The matter may be brought up for future discussion at a later date.

Kil said discussions between the city and the Fixed Base Operators at the Lamar Airport are continuing, but not very hopeful at this point to provide a working, monthly salary for the operators by the city in lieu of some city-provided assistance.   A request was made late last year to allow self-service fueling operations which incorporates an upgrade and required funding for the project. However, the hoped-for funding from the CARES Act would not apply, according to City Treasurer, Kristin McCrea. Kil said the current pandemic has curtailed fuel sales as well as regular flights in and out of the airport and has cut into the FBO’s revenue expectations. He said the city cannot afford, nor has budgeted for additional financial assistance and any change would mean a big change to an agreement or a re-bidding of a FBO contract, an action which might occur in the next 45 days.

The council and Arkansas River Power Authority came to an agreement on the Third Amendment to Mutual and Release Settlement Agreement for a portion of the Lamar Repowering Project. The agreement is contingent on a five-year lease agreement with North Fork Farms, LLC on the purchase of the property and equipment. The coal domes and related equipment on the property north of East Maple Street will be repurposed to allow for the location of a new business. In consideration of leaving all the buildings and equipment, the new amendment provides that ARPA will pay the City of Lamar $511,000 (repurposing funds), to be used to demolish or redevelop the property. In turn, the city releases ARPA from any liability or responsibility related to the site. The city is directed to use these funds on the site and in no other location. A proposal is being submitted to the city for Northfork Farms, LLC to operate a fertilizer and grain business at the location. If the agreement is not fulfilled, the property reverts to ARPA for demolition.

The council approved a one-year agreement with Prowers County to provide continued ambulance and EMS services in areas of the county not served by the Holly Ambulance Service. The cost is $120,000 for 12 months. This was part of an agreement reached last year between the city and the county which set up the initial contract. The new extension is being forwarded to the county for action on its part.

The state’s 5-Star Safe Business Pledge Program was discussed at length by the council. The program offers a means by which businesses can opt in to the program to show their safe-health actions in light of the covid pandemic as a means of slowing the growth of the virus in a community. Prowers County is in the Orange Level having been rated at the Red Level several weeks ago. The council hopes to show that local support can help speed the process of re-opening the community’s business sector. Letters of support for the program have been requested and sent to mayors of local communities in the county as well as law enforcement agencies, Prowers County Commissioners and Prowers Medical Center, many of which have signed on to the voluntary program. The council voted five to two in favor of sending a letter of support to the state to enact the program which would be modified to fit the city and county’s health code requirements. Mayor Kirk Crespin summarized the benefit as being that a business that buys into the program would be able to operate at a less stringent CDPHE level if they complete and maintain all the required benchmarks.  Those entities supporting the letter, to date,  include the cities of Lamar, Granada and Wiley, Prowers County Commissioners,  Prowers Sheriff, Prowers County Public Health and Prowers Medical Center.

The council approved a service agreement with Ground Engineering for a soils and compacting test as a preliminary to the Washington Street Stormwater Life Station Project. The cost of the service is $5,910. The council will continue discussion on the proposed Public Safety Board which will act in an oversite and advisory capacity for the Police, Fire and Ambulance departments. Councilmembers Joe Gonzales and Raphael Rodriguez agreed to act as representatives on the group studying the feasibility of the board.

Councilman Oscar Riley inquired about the potential repeal of Ordinance 17-12-03 approved in 2017 which allocates $350,000 a year from a settlement over the Lamar Repowering Project over a 26-year span. Currently the funding is being used by the Lamar Utilities Board to help offset the monthly electric bills received by customers of Lamar Light and Power. Riley suggested the council investigate how that annual payment could be directed to other municipal uses.

The council discussed transferring city owned property on Laurel Street to the First Presbyterian Church, and the church, in turn, would transfer the property on 6th Street to the city. Such a transfer would clean up the property on both streets and provide the city with 80 feet of right of way on 6th Street. The council will move ahead on the transfer with the church board.

Janette Erdman was appointed to the Lamar Advisory Board, replacing Donald Shelton whose term has expired. Her five-year appointment will be until February 2026. Administrator Kil noted that City Offices will be closed for Presidents Day, Monday, February 15th. The next council meeting is set for Monday, February 8th. The new shelter pavilion has been constructed at North Gateway Park. The Administrator said bids should be awarded for the construction of the kayak rental building sometime in March with completion expected by early summer.

The council went into executive session for discussion of a personnel matter under CRS 24-6-402(4)(f), evaluation of City Clerk.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: City of LamarConsumer IssuesCountyCOVID-19EconomyFeaturedHealthUtilities


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